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As much as I, a critic, do love watching foreign animation, reviewing it, talking about it, and making sure you all watch it, trying to watch them legally is a pain in the neck. I know some people will justify less legal means to watch everything, but I always want to make sure I tackle films that you can easily find. Unless I get a screener for a film not out in the US yet like Snotty Boy, a majority of animated films I have reviewed have some way to watch it. You can either buy it, rent it, stream it, and or it is coming out stateside. It’s a tedious job sometimes reviewing these films, but it makes it easier when companies in the US, no matter how big of an audience these films will have, give them a shot. This is why I was really happy to see a company like Funimation start to invest in bringing movies over again, and one of their first films this year that wasn’t based on a franchise was the gay romantic drama The Stranger by the Shore.
Directed and written by Akiyo Ohashi, and produced by Studio Hibari and Blue Lynx, this film is based on the boys love L’estranger series of the same name. It’s about two young men. One is a gay novelist named Shun Hashimoto who works at a beachside inn, and Mio Chibana a lonely orphan who recently lost his mother. A few years pass after the first time they meet, and while Shun still works at the inn and goes through the struggle of becoming a novelist, a new employee ends up working at the inn, and it turns out to be Mio, who then confesses his love to Shun. Will the two respond healthfully back to one another with their true feelings, or will life throw a wrench into the situation?
The biggest problem with this film is its run time. There seems to be this rule that anytime a gay love story is adapted into a film in anime, it can only be an hour long. This leads to the film really putting the pedal to the metal to get to every single gay love story drama point resulting in a film that is not 100% satisfying story-wise. When it was able to slow down and let the drama be between our two leads, this film had a very nice, intimate atmosphere to it. It didn’t feel so contrived, because the drama between the two felt grounded.
When it had to go from Shun’s overarching narrative of commitment to dealing with his actions of the past, and the scorn of a woman he was supposed to have married but didn’t, it feels a bit much. It doesn’t help that Shun seems to get the boatload of development, while Mio gets the short end. Both characters are great, but a longer running time or better pacing would have absolutely helped make both leads feel fully fleshed out. It’s also a touch disappointing that the end goal for the two of them was to have sex. The sex scene itself is handled very tastefully and is intimate and loving, but the end goal of a romance shouldn’t be sex. Sure, that might not have been the intended goal, but that is what it seems like their end goal was. Apparently, the manga sequel to this story fleshes them out more, but we aren’t here talking about the manga sequel. We are here to judge this film and this film alone.
One thing that is consistent about this film is the animation quality. It’s a gorgeous film with fluid movements, detailed backgrounds, and very expressive characters. The studios behind the animation, Studio Hibari and Blue Lynx made one of the best-looking films of 2020/2021. If you want some great visuals, then you will love this film’s look.
The voice cast is also strong with some familiar names of the Funimation regulars, including Josh Grelle and Justin Briner of My Hero Academia fame playing our lead characters. They do a great job playing off one another, and they make the romance, when the film is able to focus on that, believable. The rest of the cast is impressive as well, with Amber Lee Conners, Morgan Garrett, Bryn Apprill, Jessica Cavanagh, Ciaran Strange, Brittney Karbowski, Monica Rial, David Wald, and the overall cast is a talented group for their respective parts big and small.
The Stranger by the Shore is a flawed, but touching romance story, and is readily available to watch now on Funimation Now. There is something nice about seeing more companies bringing over films from overseas, because it seems like the anime industry is willing to give us everything no matter the end quality, but when it comes to films, US distributors have to jump through hoops to bring these films over, and then you get distributors like Aniplex that think most people can afford their super expensive releases. For now, this film doesn’t have a physical release in mind, but if you have Funimation NOW, you can stream it for free, and if you are looking for a good romance anime film, then I recommend checking this film out. Now then, we shall journey to Netflix for a German, Spain, and Belgium collaboration with Firedrake The Silver Dragon aka Dragon Rider.
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Rating: Go See It!